Next on our BLUP 50 list is London’s Riya Hollings, but a Berlin-based director and photographer. Coming from a fashion editorial background, her style of photography is seductive and surreal. Moving fluidly through genres, she is able to build visual narratives and unique concepts for commercials and clients which include Revolut, Sony, Warner Music. Universal and Atlantic Records.
We delved into Riya’s story to discover her stimulative aesthetic which fuses film and digital to create a kaleidoscope of thought provoking imagery, blending lucid colour and dynamic movement with an atmospheric feel.
// DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN ONE WORD
// TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOURSELF
My background is in fashion where I completed a design degree at the University of Leeds and then decided to move to London to ‘find myself’. I started interning for a few major fashion players, working on editorials for the likes of POP, LOVE, iD, DAZED, PONYSTEP to name a few. While I was keen to pursue my career in fashion, the underground club photography I had been doing through university had started to lead onto bigger things. I soon decided that I wanted to merge this gap and start shooting the music artists I was working with in a more editorial way. I still continued with my styling alongside the photography and integrated a lot of it into my current portfolio.
Since the end of 2020 I moved to Berlin to write and direct my first short film ‘CHOKE’ which is currently in post production. Alongside directing music videos for Universal Berlin, I have now decided to focus my energy on directing, alongside my photography, and I’m currently in discussions with a few creative representatives for this.
// HOW DID YOU BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY IN PHOTOGRAPHY AND WHAT HELPED GROW YOUR PASSION FOR IT?
I worked in nightclubs for over a decade, capturing the dark atmosphere and energy of the people within it. It felt as though I existed only at night. I was drawn to the lifestyle of working in clubs, it was addictive. The coloured lighting, lasers, strobes, smoke, the sweat on peoples skin, it felt strangely like home. I carry a lot of this energy into my work today and will always be the root of my inspiration. My passion for visual art is never ending, it is a constant evolution. Its multifaceted nature keeps me constantly engaged, it’s like a drug you want to keep on chasing.
// BEING ON YOUR CREATIVE JOURNEY SO FAR, WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WOULD TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF?
Leeds was a great university and I really got to know a lot about myself there. However if you know that this type of career is really what you want to do, try and get yourself into a London school from the get go. The connections you will make through schools such as CSM or LCF could be invaluable to your career as an artist. If university is not the path for you, going straight into an internship is also an amazing thing to do.
// WHAT’S YOU GO-TO SONG RIGHT NOW (OF 2022)?
That is a super hard question aha – currently listening to FKA twigs’ Caprisongs, Kendrick Lamar – Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, and Kia Ora 10’s Spellspellspell.
// WHAT’S A MOMENT OR PIECE OF WORK YOU’RE MOST PROUD OF?
My short film CHOKE. CHOKE is a prospective dream of eventuality. A short film set in Berlin 2222. This is a story of perpetual escapism and enlightenment, blurring the lines between a conscious reality and simulated fantasy. ‘Life perpetuates itself through diversity. Neither modern science or philosophy can explain what life is. DNA is just a program designed to preserve itself.’ This is the new age of consciousness.
I wanted to make a film with homage to my favourite old sci-fi movies. When I was 6 years old I stole my dad’s VHS copy of Blade Runner. I watched it repeatedly in secret, it felt so bad, I was obsessed with it.
When I moved to Berlin at the end of 2020 I was completely lost and felt like I didn’t belong anywhere. I spent months during lockdown alone in my flat, a new existence that felt so foreign to the one I had before. The brutalist nature of the city, its wild weather and unpredictable terrain, it changed something in me. It gave me the clarity I needed to push forward. Inspired by this stark and bleak environment, it was the visual direction I had been searching for. I feel like at the time, the film was an honest expression of my past and present realities combined. I am looking forward to sharing more about it with everyone soon!
// IF YOU COULD SPEND A DAY & ENJOY DINNER WITH ANY PERSON IN YOUR INDUSTRY TO PICK THEIR BRAINS, WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
// WHAT’S THE NEXT ITEM ON YOUR WISHLIST?
I actually just bought a Sony Handycam DCR-TRV265E Digital 8 to replace my older model. Something that had been on my wish list for a while.
// IF YOU COULD COLLABORATE WITH ANY BRAND OF YOUR CHOICE, WHICH ONE WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
Difficult question. I really want to get into making car adverts so I guess Tesler would be a good fit with the current climate.
// WHAT’S RECENTLY CAUGHT YOUR ATTENTION ON INSTAGRAM / TIKTOK?
I try and stay away from social media as much as possible but of course it is part of the gig to stay relevant. I do however enjoy the profiles of @diet_prada & @iamfuckingmagic
// LOVED YOUR RECENT WORK WITH REVOLUT AND SAMSUNG…SO WE’D LOVE TO KNOW WHAT ELSE HAS PERSONALLY CAUGHT YOUR ATTENTION IN THE TECH SPACE SO FAR THIS YEAR?
I am really inspired by brands who are utilising sustainable energy as part of their ethos and product direction. This is something I would like to be more involved in. Creating narratives with ideas of a greener future, and how by using technology we can open our minds to the endless resources and possibilities available to us.
// DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING EXCITING IN THE MAKING FOR 2022/2023 THAT WE SHOULD KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR?
My new film CHOKE – Watch this space.
// WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO CONTINUE IN YOUR CRAFT?
Like most things, if you are addicted to it, you keep doing it. I think this is a healthy thing though aha.
FOLLOW RIYA’S JOURNEY